I’ve tried a few times to do a specific little creative task every day for 100 days: Draw letters every day, design a pattern every day, create an animation every day. Such 100-day projects are inspiring and useful, even if—like me— you don’t make it through the 100 days.
What are daily projects?
A daily project is a creative challenge where I resolve to work on a topic or project every day for a certain period of time. For example, every day for a month, 100 days, 365 days, or every week for 52 weeks.
Daily Projects are an opportunity to learn something new and practice it regularly. By setting myself the task of working on the topic every day, I don’t have to think about whether I should sit down every night or watch TV instead. That sounds like a strict regiment, but it can be very liberating because the decision that I’m going to do something has already been made. I just have to decide what I’m going to do.
But even that is already limited in some of these projects by predefined »prompts«, i.e. keywords that the participants work to. The advantage of this is that I don’t have to think too much about what I’m going to do. In addition, an impulse from outside can give me ideas that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own.
With other challenges, you are completely free and set your own formal and content framework. I decide for myself whether I work on the project for 15 minutes or an hour a day, or until I have achieved a certain result. I prefer these free daily projects, because one idea usually leads to the next ten, and I don’t want to be tied to a set schedule.
Enthusiasm and choking
»The 100 Day Project« by Lindsay Jean Thomson is such a free challenge. Here, all participants start on a specific date and the community and the exchange with others are an important part of the project.
The community was also great part of my first daily project. The impetus for this came from Francis Chouquet, because in a talk at the Berlin Letters Festival he told how much 100-days-of-lettering had advanced his work. When he was done with his talk, we in the audience wanted to have that experience too, so we got Francis to start the next round of 100-days-of-lettering right after the festival in May 2019.
For me and many others, the energy released by the festival flowed directly into the challenge and drawing daily and showing it on Instagram changed the way I work as well. Since the challenge, my sketchbook has been an important tool for me, and the many alphabets I drew for 100-Day Lettering became my book »Alphabets« a year later.
But 100 day projects are not always this successful. In the winter of 2020, I also participated in the next round of 100-days-of-lettering and decided to produce a lettering animation every day. On day 23, I gave up. My intention was simply too ambitious. Animations are complex and I didn’t master the technique enough – this realization can also be the result of a challenge.
No matter how thoughtfully I set my rules for the project, some days are tough. There are sags, tough times, and the longer I’ve persevered, the more painful it is to admit it to myself when I don’t make it on a given day. But life comes first and it’s not the end of the world to skip a day. I just put the day in the back.
It’s all part of it—joy, exuberance, inspiration, but also boredom, impatience and frustration. And really, these projects are about getting to know yourself better: what do I enjoy? What comes easily to me? When do I get bored and where do I struggle? When I know these things about myself, I can much better »follow the energy« and do exactly what I enjoy and find easy.
At this point, my mother would say: »But you don’t always have the choice!« She’s right. But you can strive for it.
100 Days of Patterns
Another part of a 100-day-challenge is to show the process to others. On social media or simply to someone close to you. This makes the self-commitment to daily action more binding, and a project like this is also more fun if you take others along with you and exchange ideas with them. Many people like to watch how a work develops. I feel the same way, with some artists I look forward to the update every day.
In the spring of 2022, I spent 100 days working on patterns—analog with selve-carved stamps and digital in Adobe Illustrator. I’ve always wanted to learn Illustrator for real, so I did that as part of the challenge. My rules for those 100 days were: do a little something every day, like design a pattern or keep watching an online course on pattern design. I worked on patterns every day, posting only when I had something to show.
I’m often asked where I get my ideas from, and one answer is: by doing, by staying busy. And daily projects are a very good way to stay busy.
More about Daily Projects
The 100 Day Project
On the website of the 100 Day Project, you can sign up for the newsletter to find out when the challenge next starts.
The 100 Day Projects of the artist Silke Schmidt are something special. She is not only great at drawing, but also at storytelling, and in spring 2022 she will be taking part in the 100 day project for the sixth time. Her titles alone are great: »100 days of catching stars«, »100 days of people I have met along the way« and this year: »100 days out of Berlin«.
In 2021, Stefano Stoppani had resolved to carve a stamp every day for a year and print a pattern with it. But when the year was over, he just kept going. He also kept his Instagram name 365blockprints, because his stamps and patterns quickly found many fans there.
Mark Addison Smith
I wonder if Stefano Stoppani will keep going as long as Mark Addison Smith? Mark started his daily drawing project You Look Like the Right Type on November 23, 2008, and he hasn’t skipped a single day since. In an interview for this blog, I asked him if he has an exit strategy at all.
Every day, Mark Addison Smith illustrates a phrase he overheard someone say. He hasn’t skipped a single day since November 23, 2008.